How Hiring a Diverse Team Helps Drive a Successful Business
Working in predominantly white Corporate America and running a predominantly black company have given me new insights on what it means to be diverse, and how important it is to run a business. On one hand, I can show up to work with a wig on Monday, braids on Wednesday, and a 22-inch ponytail of Friday and feel completely comfortable because many of my employees are black women who look, act, and have experiences just like me. I never feel like I have to be anything other than myself in the workplace, and as someone who has worked in exact opposite environments, I made it a point early on to create a company where people can show up and be their best without judgment.
At times, however, it can get too comfortable, which is why creating a diverse culture takes work. As a business owner, it’s easy to get in the trap of hiring people who look, talk, and act like me because of our shared background, but as our customer base grows and becomes more diverse, I realize how important it is to have different perspectives, not just from a racial standpoint but also in terms of gender, hair type, geography, education, etc..
As we continue to grow as a company, I feel strongly that having different opinions and perspectives within my team is an important part of achieving that goal and making sure I’m not operating within my own echo chamber even if our core consumer has tightly coiled hair.
- Diversity helps you to see your blind spots.
Imagine a company where everyone looked, acted, and approached business the same way. How much would really get accomplished in a day? In a month? In a year? This kind of uniformity may seem feasible, and even desirable, from the outside, but from a business standpoint, it simply can’t work. Having a diverse team allows for a type of checks and balances system, where everyone is held accountable and is challenged by their peers. When we’re launching a new line that targets a wider demographic, it’s nice to have that person in the room that brings up a different perspective that prevents us from making a huge misstep. We’ve seen this many times before with things like the “Cutest Little Monkey in the Jungle”. As the saying goes, “It takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round.”
- Diversity brings different experiences.
My personal challenge with hair and beauty led to me creating Thank God It’s Natural. At one time, I felt only black women shared this experience, but over time, I realize the world of curls was a complicated one. Even though black hair has a complicated history, many curls can bond over the fact that at one time, we all longed for straight hair. Having a non-black woman on my team with curly hair helped me to realized and appreciate the fact that we have a shared struggle in common and has also led to us thinking about how we position new lines, test messaging, launch products and approach new retailers. This is just one example of how having a diverse team can positively benefit the company as a whole. With such diversity, in this case, ethnic diversity, different experiences and ideas are brought forth, allowing for everyone to have a more holistic perspective on the world at large and how the company can excel in it. This can easily translate into unique and strategic business moves, like company mergers or new product launches. No one has all the answers; it truly takes a village.
- Diverse companies outperform their competitors and bring in more profits.
In today’s business world, it seems as if diverse companies have the edge over non-diverse ones.
Ben Holcombe, sales director and member of the Salsify Diversity & Inclusion Initiative, once said, “Building a world-class company requires hiring and mentoring a diverse employee base where different skill sets, backgrounds, and opinions come together to create a culture of empowerment and meaning.”
And the numbers back Ben up! When you can pull from a larger pool of candidates, you are able to have a more qualified workforce, and studies have shown that businesses that fail to establish a diverse and inclusive environment see higher employee turnover rates. Companies with large gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform their peers, and companies with large ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their peers. Not to mention, millennials prioritize having a diverse workforce; they want role models and managers who look like them.
This may be because of a healthier, more welcoming working environment or maybe it’s just happenstance. But it’s more likely that people thrive in environments that are conducive to the way they live. When people are surrounded by others that look like them and value their individuality in the workplace, they often come alive, becoming more confident in their interactions with peers and with their decision to join the company. This positive office culture is what propels companies forward and gives its employees the drive and motivation to do what needs to be done, which results in more efficient performance and higher profit margins.
- Diverse teams are more adaptable to changing times.
Finally, when companies make it a point to hire people of varying ages, backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities, they set themselves up for a promising future. The world of business is constantly on the move, changing from one trend to the next without taking a breath. As we’re seeing today with decades-old brick-and-mortar stores, like Sears and Carson’s, staying stagnant for too long can be detrimental to the livelihood of a company. Businesses often take advantage of their diverse teams to analyze the market and move with it, not against it. This simple step in action could spell the difference between a year of booming sales and closing your doors. But again, it takes work, real work, and sometimes even a willingness to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. But like Ben said, the results speak for themselves.
How can your company benefit from a more diverse team?